Bristol 105 Bulldog


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Bristol 105 Bulldog

Between the World Wars the Bristol Aeroplane Company had very few successful designs. The outstanding one that kept the big factory busy from 1928 until 1935 was the Bulldog, the RAF's standard single-seat interceptor from the late 1920s until progressively replaced by the Fury and Gauntlet in the mid-1930s.

Capt Barnwell designed the Type 105 Bulldog to meet Air Ministry Specification F.9/26. It was a sturdy unequal-span biplane with a structure chiefly of light alloy, with fabric covering. The Bristol Jupiter engine, which in the initial production Bulldog II was a 328kW Jupiter VII, was mounted in a streamlined nose with its cylinders projecting uncowled but with streamlined fairings and cooling baffles. The propeller had two wooden blades. From the first flight on 17 May 1927 handling was excellent. Features included Frise ailerons on the large upper wing and an adjustable trimming tailplane. In confor-mity with standard British practice the armament comprised two 7.62mm Vickers machine-guns with their breeches accessible to the pilot (so that he could clear stoppages with a mallet and recock the offending weapon) and firing along channels in the forward fuselage and between the cylinders of the engine. Four 9 kg bombs could be carried under the small lower wing. Standard equipment included an oxygen bottle and radio. After final evaluation against the Hawker Hawfinch the Bulldog was selected in 1928, Bristol having quickly produced a Mk II prototype with a longer fuselage and other changes to rectify previous minor faults. The first batch comprised 25 aircraft, of which 23 went to RAF fighter squadrons beginning with No 3 in 1929. Altogether 92 Bulldog II were built, one of which was retained for trials with Mercury engines in more advanced forms of cowling. Seventeen went to Latvia, eight to the RAAF, two to the US Navy, two to Siam, 12 to Estonia, three to Sweden and one to Chile.

A civil demonstrator flown in June 1930 was stressed for greater gross weight and led to the main production version, the Bulldog IIA, the usual engine of which was the 365kW Jupiter VIIF with forged cylinder heads. By November 1933 Bristol had built 262 of this model, of which eight went to Sweden and 253 to the RAF. Four more, called Bristol 105D, were supplied to Denmark with Madsen guns and other changes. Two improved and much faster aircraft with the Mercury engine and Townend ring cowl were designated Bulldog IIIA, leading to the strengthened four-aileron Bulldog IVA, with a 477kW Mercury VIS2 and full-length cowl. This was beaten by the Gladiator for RAF orders, but 17 were built for Finland in the first two months of 1935. The last Bulldog was an all-stainless-steel Mk IIA for the Air Ministry.

Back in 1931 a Mk IIA had been rebuilt into a dual-control advanced trainer. In December 1932 a modified trainer, called Bulldog TM (Training Machine), went into production as a standard type for the RAF. By December 1934 no fewer than 60 had been delivered. They were designed so that by fitting different rear fuselages, and adding guns (for which provision was made), they became fighters; but this was never necessary. Bulldogs remained in full RAF service until 1937, and until 1940 with Baltic air forces.

Bristol 105 Bulldog

 ENGINE1 x Bristol "Jupiter VII F", 360kW
  Take-off weight1600 kg3527 lb
  Wingspan10.3 m34 ft 10 in
  Length7.7 m25 ft 3 in
  Height2.7 m9 ft 10 in
  Wing area28.5 m2306.77 sq ft
  Max. speed286 km/h178 mph
  Ceiling8950 m29350 ft
  Range w/max.fuel600 km373 miles
  Range w/max payload440 km273 miles
 ARMAMENT2 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 4 x 9kg bombs

Niels Lundgreen, e-mail, 13.09.2014 14:35

Hej Mike, did we have an appointment in Copenhagen to day 13.9.2014? I was home but the door telephone apparently was not function. I heared you ring, but was too late down at the dor.

Call me.


Mike Williams, e-mail, 07.05.2014 13:07

I live in Sweden and have a propeller that I think may have come from a Bristol Bulldog. It has metal tags with the date of 1937 and WATTS MERCURY with some other numbers. It is about ten feet long. Any help would be appreciated.


Frank Marshall, e-mail, 06.12.2013 18:17

When I was an Engineering Apprentice at the Bristol Aeroplane Company I was tasked, at the age of 18-19 (1963 /4), with assisting with the rebuild of the last remaining Bulldog. This work was located in a corner of one of the vast Brabazon Hangers. To my eyes it was an extremely beautiful aircraft with fine lines and I'd already fallen in love with it in the much viewed 'Reach for the Sky' film.

One of the design features I remember about the aircraft was the VERY ingenious use of formed and rolled steel sheet and strip. VERY thin gauge, probably around 30-36gauge. The main spar was formed and fabricated from rolled steel sheet as were all the wing ribs. I could still sketch the construction now! There was a single steel rivet attaching the rolled and formed steel rib truss to the rolled steel rib caps!
In fact the vast majority of the airframe was steel. Beautifully conceived, and pushing the limits of the production engineers as with the much later Type 188.

I was furious with the demonstration pilot, Williamson, (Backup to Godfrey Auty, Concorde test pilot) who crashed it shortly afterwards. He was doing aerobatics at an altitude which didn't leave any room for recovery following an engine failure.

We've lost FAR too many historic aircraft due to pilots not giving anything like enough consideration to the age, value and rarity of their steeds or their unique responsibility.....but that's another story.


Sgt.KAR98, 14.01.2009 20:18

What about finnish Bulldogs?Were they the ones that were delivered for Sweden?


dromo, e-mail, 22.09.2008 23:29

I found one of these tucked away in a corner of the museum at RAf Henlow in the 1960s. Couldn't resist climbing in the cockpit. Best known as the plane in which WWII ace Douglas Bader lost both his legs.


Jennifer Trencham, e-mail, 04.02.2007 06:11

Was this aircraft used by the Royal Navy on carriers? or any of the Bristol aircraft. I am interested to know the aircraft that landed in Hong Kong from a carrier. The first airstrip there was built by the Royal Navy I believe in 1920's.Any info most welcome please. thank you


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